PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers selected Shaedon Sharpe with the seventh pick in the NBA draft on Thursday, taking a chance on a player who never suited up in college.
Sharpe, 6-foot-6 wing from Canada, was a five-star recruit who committed to Kentucky but never played for the Wildcats. He intended on redshirting his first season, but instead decided to declare for the draft.
“Going from high school to college and not playing your college season and then straight to the NBA,” Sharpe said. “It’s quite the journey but every step of the way I’ve just fought and had fun with it.”
Coming off a season marked by a spate of injuries, a new coach, a front-office shakeup and a roster overhaul, the Blazers are rebuilding around All-Star Damian Lillard.
“He’s a great guard himself and he’s been in this league for some time now, so I just can’t wait to really learn from him,” Sharpe said.
There was talk that Portland might trade the pick.
“I had just worked the phones so diligently, from post-combine on, just tons of trade discussions, tons of pick-swap ideas, or swap plus a player ideas, or pick for a plyer outright ideas, while continually evaluating the draft,” Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said. “As the process went on, we became more and more enamored with pick seven. Most of my trade discussions became, `You have to wow us to even think about moving this pick.’”
Cronin said he believes Sharpe could play right away, but time will tell.
“It was a unique situation with Shaedon, where he didn’t play college basketball so he wasn’t seen or evaluated nearly as much as these other guys,” Cronin said. “But we were lucky enough that we had a pretty good foundation on him.”
Portland was active ahead of the draft, acquiring Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither team announced the agreement.
Lillard, who was injured for much of last season, played with Grant on the gold medal-winning U.S. team at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. Grant averaged 19.2 points in 47 games last season with the Pistons.
Detroit received the 46th pick from in the draft as part of the trade and selected Ismael Kamagate of France. But Kamagate was headed to Denver via another deal.
Portland capped the night by selecting forward Jabari Walker out of Colorado with the 57th pick. Last year as a sophomore, Walker averaged 14.6 points and a Pac-12 leading 9.4 rebounds per game for the Buffaloes. He led the conference with 17 double-doubles.
Walker’s father is Samaki Walker, who was the ninth overall pick in the 1996 draft and played 10 seasons in the NBA.
“He’s a player that’s really intriguing to us because of his mix of youth, size, length, shooting, upside,” Cronin said about Walker. “He was two-year guy at Colorado and showed some flashes we thought were really appealing.”
The Blazers finished 27-55 last season, their worst record since 2005-06. Clearly eying draft position late in the season, Portland lost 11 games by more than 30 points after the All-Star break, and finished in 13th in the Western Conference.